Review: 2 giant phones decent, but not for size
I see that degradation watching "Ice Age." The video just isn't as sharp on the Note.
I soon discovered the reason: The S III and the Note both have the same number of pixels, those tiny dots that collectively form text and images on a screen. Both displays are 1,280 by 720 pixels, which translate to 306 pixels per inch on the S III and 267 on the Note II. So the Note simply stretches the same amount of display information onto a wider area. That's a shame, as it negates much of the benefits of a larger screen.
By contrast, the DNA's display is 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, or 440 pixels per inch. That's among the best out there. The iPhone 5, by contrast, is at 326 pixels per inch.
That said, both Samsung phones have richer colors than the DNA, thanks to a screen that uses organic light-emitting diodes, rather than a standard LCD. Although video on the DNA is sharper, color isn't as vivid as it is on the S III or the Note. Still, the DNA's screen trumps that of many other phones, and video looks great if you're not watching a movie next to a Samsung phone.
Available from Verizon Wireless for $200 with a two-year service agreement, the DNA also has a front-facing, videoconferencing camera that's among the best, at 2.1 megapixels. Its rear camera, for taking photos and video, matches the 8 megapixels that other major phones have. Sound comes out well thanks to the DNA's use of Dr. Dre's Beats Audio.
As for the Note, it has a fine-tip stylus that can be used to add a handwritten signature to an email, circle an important event on your calendar or doodle on a virtual notepad. The on-screen keyboard has an extra row for numerals, so you don't have to keep toggling between letters and numbers when writing messages or entering passwords. The Note is available from a variety of carriers starting at $300 with a two-year contract.
Both are decent phones, but not for their distinguishing feature — the size. The increase in size is barely noticeable on the DNA and annoying on the Note, which feels even bulkier with a built-in cover. It keeps bouncing in my pocket when I'm running, then feels as if it would slip out of my hands once I take it out. Checking voice mail feels awkward. The Note is also one-third heavier than the S III.
Here's a case of trying to be too much. A phone is a phone and shouldn't try to grow into a tablet. After all, you don't see too many people hold up an iPad to their ears to make phone calls, even though you could with Skype and other calling apps.
With the Note in particular, you get the annoyances of a tablet (something too big to easily carry around) and little of the benefits (fitting more content on the screen). Get the Note for the stylus, but not for the screen. Likewise, the DNA doesn't offer much in terms of screen size beyond other phones out there. Get the DNA for its sound quality or screen resolution, but not for the size of the display.
There are sure to be bigger phones to come, and I hope they will offer more than just content shown bigger. App developers may have to do their part by designing their programs for varying screen sizes. Both the DNA and the Note have good features that set them apart from rivals, but size isn't one of them.
Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.
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